JACK: Welcome to the 101 Digital Podcast. I’m Jack Reinke. I’m one of the co-founders and I’m here with Craig Meyer. He is the CEO of 101 Digital and we’re starting this podcast series to talk with both customers, people inside the company, people we work with and partners, in order to give good insights into the IT industry, things that are going on, tips, best practices, interesting stories, and try to provide education and entertainment for our customers or just people who are watching. Whether you’re in the industry or you’re just someone who’s looking at managed IT companies or wants to really learn and thinking about going into a career in IT.
So, we’re going to try to make this kind of versatile and talk about different things in different episodes. But on the first episode, we just wanted to give you a brief introduction to ourselves and the company, the things we’re doing where we’re at, how we got here and just talk about some of the basic stuff. So, I guess without any other further intro, Craig, do you want to give an update of who you are and how you got here?
Background on 101 Digital
CRAIG: Yeah, I’ll give you also just a full breakdown of what we provide.
So, as Jack said we’re a managed IT and cybersecurity company. Essentially, I feel like the way I always explain to people is that we are your outsourced helpdesk. We take on all your support, whether it’s for end user, servers, networking, phones, camera systems, and access control — all those types of things. So, we really try to take the burden of any IT daily issue or project or anything that is IT related off of all of our customers plates.
As Jack mentioned — CEO of 101 Digital — I would say last year we’ve really focused on building out the team, putting a lot of new processes in place, and getting to a spot where our customers really really benefited from it, and I think a lot of them saw that.
A lot of the different changes that we implemented last year all benefit our customers so there’s a lot of times even with like new toolsets that we start utilizing that we’ll push to our customers at no additional cost and, again, those are the things, especially as an IT company, we’re always trying to make sure that we’re staying on top of the trends so that our customers don’t have to.
JACK: A quick background on 101 is, you’ve been in the IT space for 13 years now.
CRAIG: Pretty much, my entire life, yeah.
JACK: And 101 essentially merged with another IT company so now we have about 90 customers and we’ve had quite a few new customers join us over the last year. Do you want to give a little background about your journey to this point and where you started and the things you’ve done?
The Beginning of 101 Digital
CRAIG: Yeah, I mean, as Jack said I pretty much have done IT my entire life even going back to when I was extremely young, the kind of cliche — helping friends and family — and then going from that to doing some internal IT to starting my own managed IT provider even before 101 Digital and then, you know, with Jack starting 101 Digital and then purchasing another company called Blue Collar Computing so yeah, it’s been quite a ride.
JACK: Yeah, and the Blue Collar team and everybody that came over they’ve been great additions to the company and it’s really, I think been a good team, and we’ve added people who were on our team before that so we have, I would say, a pretty full range of services from the IT help desk support all the way through development capabilities on the software side. Our goal is to make this a full-service company that can provide any real scope or scale for IT in that small to medium-sized business range. And I think that that’s really the path that we’re excited about and where we really like to get involved in to help customers.
CRAIG: Yeah, and I think one more thing I haven’t mentioned yet is our industry verticals and what makes us, I think, very different than most is that we have a lot of experience in logistics, manufacturing, health care, nonprofits and across our team, we also have a wide range of different knowledge.
Benefits of Having a Managed IT Provider
CRAIG: Let’s just say you were internally hiring these people. 1) You have usually a single person if you’re a smaller company bringing on someone in IT and having to go through all those different staffing things, right? Like hiring those people, retaining those people, managing those people. With 101 Digital, they don’t have any of that. All you have is a point of contact on our team and then the entire team to service you, so whether it’s Cloud or if it’s O365 onboarding users, off boarding users, we have all that knowledge so again, you don’t have to go out and try to find a single person that has everything. It’s like essentially a unicorn to find someone that has all of the different things that you might need within your company.
JACK: Well and I think I would argue it’s just honestly not really realistic to find somebody like that because even inside of the space there’s not one person on our team that knows all of that. That’s the whole point of working with a company like ours or building a team is you have to rely on people who really just have the depth in their specific field and then how you get the breadth of it is by adding additional team members. You’re never going to find somebody that has all the breadth and the depth in it. It really just doesn’t exist because the amount of time required to understand some of the more complex things like Azure Cloud or Citrix or things like that is like that really requires a specialist in that field who’s really dedicated to that full time.
Because as we all know, all those platforms are constantly evolving. Every single month and quarter they’re releasing new features and new ways to do things so we need the team members who are just in that every single day becoming, you know, what they would call a subject matter experts at that and we provide generally all of that for our customers. No matter what their environment looks like or what they want to do within their environment, they have the flexibility to make a change from AWS to Azure because we have somebody who’s familiar with both sides of that and that makes that, you know, just a much simpler process.
CRAIG: Yeah and the other part of that too that you haven’t even mentioned yet is all the vendor relationships. In any organization you’re going to have — for Office 365 — your email, you might then have an anti-virus provider, you might have a backup provider. Again, we standardize all of that for the customer as well. They don’t have to worry about five, six different IT vendors. Even from an ISP internet service provider, we can source that for our customers, and we manage that relationship too. Everyone loves that AT&T or Comcast call so instead we take on the actual time for that.
Setting Your Priorities for the Year
JACK: One of the things that we’ve been working on a lot or there’s been a lot of projects around in the last couple of months has been customers looking to move to the Cloud and I kind of want to set this specific thing aside for a second. Really, I think the main topic of this as we kick off 2023 — so it’s January right now of 2023 — and we’re talking about with a lot of customers about what the next year looks like. What their priorities are and what people are really interested in pursuing for their businesses. What the biggest need areas are now. So, what would you say — I know Cloud is going to be one of them — but what would you say the other major areas that you’ve had a lot of conversations about as we’ve done the VCIO meeting so far this year and at the end of last year
CRAIG: Yeah, I mean Cloud which encompasses a couple of things so SharePoint for files, Azure AD for authentication because otherwise you know you have a lot of on prem infrastructure and if people are now remote connecting back to all those resources is very difficult so those are big. And then again it all depends on the different customers because we have a bunch of different types of customers. Some are very interested in cameras, and, you know, access control type things. So, I would say those three have really been the biggest recently which again is kind of funny It’s all encompassing of Cloud though because even these access control and camera systems are all Cloud hosted, right? So, everything is pretty much Cloud.
JACK: So, this is where we’ve seen the industry moving or customer interest moving is both Cloud and security, right? Both of these things are really the same. Where the reason for going to the Cloud and it’s just an interesting evolution, right? Because when the Cloud discussion first came out most people’s first concern was security. The perception that on prem servers and systems were more secure than the Cloud. But now what we’re seeing is the exact opposite happening whereas we’ve seen the explosion of ransomware and this type of thing and people losing access to their files or getting encrypted, customers have started to see the Cloud as more secure, right? And in an area that they want to actually pursue and so this Cloud security or just security and the Cloud, encompasses, like you said, a lot of the camera systems not having to maintain all of your infrastructure in-house as far as the DVRs and all of the hardware that wears out and you have to refresh it. So that and then the Azure identity management. So, it’s like moving the Active Directory to the Cloud and all of your identity controls and that can be done with a lot of other software aside from Azure, but it’s just the identity management component with the remote work and hybrid work has been hugely important. So, it is kind of interesting that both Cloud and security are kind of blending together into being a huge priority area for customers this year.
CRAIG: Definitely. A lot of these things are going to be in the Cloud and, like you said, I think the way to look at it is that most companies don’t have the budget to secure things like Microsoft or our cloud security partner, Verkada, has, right? So, I really think that most customers are going to see the benefits of it. Most of them are already paying for these things and don’t actually even realize it. So, on the O365 side — if you’re using any of the Cloud licensing for your email office
Applications, you’re already getting SharePoint, but most people, again, just aren’t utilizing it. You already have the Azure Active Directory and most people aren’t actually authenticating to it. So, it’s really just working with these customers to let them know what they may already have and just now migrating to those things.
JACK: Yeah, I think the advisory and the strategy part of it is really valuable because there’s just a lot to it and like we’ve talked about these things are constantly evolving over the years.
What IT Services Look Like in 2023
JACK: So, then I guess the final point on this is from your perspective as you’ve talked to a lot of our partners both on the hardware and software side — what are you most excited about for this year/where do you think the biggest leaps will be on the technology side?
CRAIG: I know we already talked about it, but it’s really going to be the Azure AD type things because, again, one of the biggest struggles that I saw doing internal IT years ago was that authentication piece when people were remote. You’d have to have them either VPN in, VPN in before they even try to log in and a lot of those things just caused a lot of issues. And then from there, again not to get too technical, but group policy then on prem is what then facilitated all of the folder shares, like the mappings of all those pushing printers, all these different things. But, again, you pretty much had to be like on prem and/or VPN in to get a lot of those benefits. So now with all this Cloud stuff, it really is seamless. And it seems like even with Microsoft it’s just taking some time for all of that to kind of come along, right? It’s much easier now than it was even five years ago, even though it was introduced maybe five, ten years ago. So, yeah it finally feels like it’s all coming together. A lot of our customers in the last even three months, I think we’ve done at least four or five migrations, and I think the customers see the benefits of it too. Like even for onboarding new users, offboarding users. Really quick on the onboarding side: you create them in Office 365, apply a license — now they can log in to any machine on your network. They also then log in and it’s going to then automatically log them into their OneDrive, their Outlook, all their applications. It’s all going to just be synced versus before all of that, it was a multi-step thing. You had to create the user on prem then make sure that the machine is on the internal domain log them in and then from there, they’re still going to have to use their O365 log in to get to the OneDrive and applications. There’s just a lot of like disjointed things. We saw at the end of last year and now hopefully throughout this year it’s really going to just be like a joining of all of these things and a, hopefully, much better user experience for onboarding and off-boarding.
JACK: Yeah, and that’s I guess the final point on this is I think what we’ve talked about is like, even at our parent company, we’ve used Azure for a long time. We do a lot of internal software development like enterprise application development and business tools for our customers. So, we’ve used Azure for, I would say years. I mean probably six or seven years and you can see every year they made huge strides in building a lot of this stuff out and actually better integrating these pieces. And so, it does, I think to your point, feel like we’re getting closer to it being a really mature solution. But I think even at this point, it’s becoming clear. It wasn’t clear four or five years ago exactly how it was going to look in its final format and I think now it’s becoming more apparent that this is going to be a really workable solution and there’s a lot of real positives that go with it. Every year that goes by it seems like the traditional, you know, legacy Active Directory model, you can finally see the path to that getting replaced. It’s not at the point where they’re going to — you can’t say “Okay, every organization can move away from this” — not even close.
CRAIG: There’s a lot of internal applications that some people still use.
JACK: Yeah, but you can see for the first time the real clear path forward to this and if you’re in an environment that doesn’t rely on really in-depth Active Directory functionality, it’s probably at the point where you should be comfortable looking at implementing a lot of the Cloud side of it, right?
CRAIG: Well, it also allows for smaller organizations to be more secure, you know, like typically a 1-to-10-person company may not want to invest in the infrastructure so therefore every single machine would just have its own local account, right? So that’s also a disaster.
JACK: Well yeah, I mean it’s either the local account, right? Or it’s the Active Directory server in the closet.
CRAIG: Very expensive to maintain it.
JACK: Well, or not maintain. How many of them have we seen where it’s just this afterthought that’s sitting in the closet and somebody put it in eight years ago and it’s not really patched and, in that scenario, obviously the Cloud is exponentially more secure than that solution. So, it’s one of those things we see that so many times going into customers environments that a lot of these Active Directory legacy systems are not that well maintained, not that up to date, they don’t have the redundancy that’s probably appropriate for it. So, that’s where the Cloud provides instantaneous value and then you don’t have to do any of the hardware refreshes so it’s just really nice.
JACK: Yeah, so these are projects we’re going to be working on over the year and the plan for this is to bring on some of the customers where we’re doing these projects and talk about the things we’re doing and how they’re using this technology to improve their business and things like that. So, hopefully it’ll be a mix of our customers, like I said partners, contacts, people we know, friends and then also people from the team and hopefully give you guys some insight into the state of what we’re doing, and you guys can learn something interesting from it. So, yeah I think that’s episode one and we’re looking forward to the year and thanks for watching. We’ll see you soon.